Thursday, February 10, 2011

As time passes the King of Clutter becomes the Knight of Neat

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

It's so odd how we change as we age. As I was waiting for some servers to pour my coffee at a shop the other day, I overheard them talking about how neat some of their friends were now, but that years ago their apartments were complete disasters. I know the feeling. I once had a complete aversion to washing dishes. I have no idea why.

One summer in the 1980s, I literally went an entire month without doing my dishes - from one long weekend to another. Let's just say that the dishes at the bottom of the pile weren't pretty when I finally got around to it. Today, the dishes are washed immediately after a meal . . . and sometimes even before I eat if there are only a few.

Years ago, credit card bills would arrive in the mail and be tossed aside carelessly on a pile. They'd be paid on time, but I'd never check what had been charged and only the minimum payment was made.

Today, every receipt is kept and checked against the statement. If there are any discrepancies whatsoever, I fix them in my own records or call the bank immediately. And yes, even if it's just a penny. Minimum payments are no longer an option. The card is paid off as I go. Paying interest was once a fact of life. These days, I can't stand to pay a cent of interest on a credit card and go to great lengths to ensure that I don't.

When I was a teenager, I used to hate shovelling snow. I remember getting growled at many times by my father for not doing it. These days, the last snowflake has barely hit the ground and I'm outside cleaning up. And yes, the front walkway to my house gets shovelled out, too. It would drive me crazy not to have the front walkway done - not because it's ever used, but because of fire and emergency concerns. Only having one doorway available as an exit in a burning house would make me lose sleep at night. I've lived in my house for 10 years and can remember not shovelling the front walkway the first year I was here. I vowed never to do that again after lying awake at night a few times worrying about an exit strategy in case of a fire.

I may sound a bit like a worry wart, but talk to any first responders and they'll likely have horror stories of doors blocked by snow during an emergency. I don't want my obituary to read, "Dearly beloved Mr. Cormier was killed by an unshovelled front walkway that impeded firefighters from pulling him out of his burning house."

I've written before about my office and how incredibly junky it was for years. Papers were strewn about everywhere. Literally years worth of filing was piled up in boxes. Taxes remained undone. Receipts were lost. Countless money and time were wasted looking for things.

Today, I'm one proudly organized man! My files are in pristine order. I can find anything quickly and efficiently. The only filing that isn't done is contained in a file called, well, "filing," that is usually done at least once per month. More often than not, the "filing" file is empty.

The last bastion of disorganization is my business receipts folder. The 2010 tax year is the last year for that, though. I've hired a bookkeeper who will be keeping track of everything quarterly so that I don't have to wade through the foot-high mound of receipts every April just before taxes are due. Now, at the end of every December, she'll just have to push a few buttons on her computer and up-to-date numbers will be printed. No more last-minute receipt sorting and calculating.

I was never a neat freak by any means, but the garbage I used to leave lying around my living room in my 20s has long been replaced by a perfectly sane system: put garbage in the garbage can. I know that sounds incredibly easy, but I remember leaving junk hanging around for weeks and going through the house with a garbage bag periodically and filling it with newspapers, fast-food containers, etc.

Having pets has fixed that bad habit pretty well. Anyone who owns pets knows that if you leave anything containing food around that you'll find it torn apart if you don't throw it out right away. Today, the garbage is sorted into dry and wet. I recycle. I return beverage containers for refilling or recycling. I put my dead batteries aside to take to the recycling centre too. Before, everything went in one garbage bag and to the landfill.

Getting older has its benefits, I guess. I'm a lot more organized after having gone through a multiyear messy stage. Ignoring stuff doesn't make it go away. It just gets worse. When it comes to your financial, business and living arrangements, ignorance is not bliss. No elves come out of the woodwork during the night while you're sleeping to fix things up for you. It's up to you to get your affairs in order.

These days, messes drive me nuts, yet there are still areas for improvement. There's that overloaded junk drawer in my kitchen. There are the three (yes, three) piles of books on the nightstand next to my bed in various states of being read. And then there's the little matter of the inside of my refrigerator. While it contains no spoiled or expired food, I can assure you that it's in desperate need of a good old-fashioned scrubbing down by a crusty Russian cleaning woman with arms the size of tree trunks.

The way things are going, if I live to be 100, I'll be the most organized person in the world . . . with a clean refrigerator to boot. I look forward to it.

No comments: